News

    Japan Says Prime Minister Did Not Ask to Address US Congress

    Japanese government officials are denying Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has asked to address a joint session of Congress during a planned visit to Washington next month. An influential U.S. congressman has said that if Mr. Koizumi wants speak before American lawmakers, he should first promise not to re-visit a controversial Japanese war shrine.

    The annual visits by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a Tokyo war shrine have chilled Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which suffered abuse by the Japanese military before and during World War II. But until now, those visits have not been an issue in the United States.

    On April 26, Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, raised the issue in a letter to speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. Mr. Hyde wrote that if Mr. Koizumi wants to address a joint session of Congress next month, he should first pledge not to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine again this year.

    The existence of the letter was confirmed to VOA News by the International Relations Committee staff, and the contents appeared in the Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun.

    According to the newspaper, Hyde, a World War II veteran, wrote that another visit by Mr. Koizumi to the war shrine would offend those Americans who remember the war.

    He also said it would dishonor the chamber of Congress where, following the December 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet in Hawaii, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a state of war.

    But Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, says the problem with Hyde's objection is that Mr. Koizumi never asked to address Congress during his U.S. visit.

    He says Mr. Koizumi has no plans to make a speech before Congress, and has not expressed any desire to do so. He adds that such criticism from an American lawmaker is rare, and that most U.S. congressmen appear to respect freedom of religion.

    Yasukuni is a Shinto shrine that honors all of Japan's modern-era war dead. Because these include a handful of men convicted of war crimes after Japan's defeat in 1945, China and South Korea consider the visits by Mr. Koizumi to be an insult.

    Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tomohiko Taniguchi, says the stance of Hyde, a Republican Party congressman from Illinois, is not shared by the Republican president as far as Japan is aware.

    "When President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi met before, they may have talked about this, but I do not think I have heard anything coming out of the Bush administration about this," he said.

    U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also alluded to the issue of the visits during his current trip through Asia. In remarks in Seoul before his arrival here in Tokyo, he urged Japan, South Korea and China to resolve their differences.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora